Understanding Integrative Approaches to Mental Health


Understanding Integrative Approaches to Mental Health

Written by Dr. Lindsay Oberleitner, PhD

What is integrative mental health?

Integrative mental health care is based on the premise that the whole is greater than the parts.

Traditional treatment for mental health has focused primarily on "the parts," focusing on diagnostic precision and matching of treatment to a diagnosis. In contrast, integrative approaches focus on an individual's wellness and optimizing both mental and physical health.

Mind and Body

Integrative mental health is deeply rooted in the belief that physical health is mental health and vice versa.

Following this, if we do not work to improve both physical and mental health wellness together, we are limiting our growth and recovery.

Thus, the integrative approach is based on the belief that we cannot silo care to one diagnosis or one health goal.

Beyond Traditional Approaches

Integrative mental health moves beyond traditional treatment approaches to include evidence-based techniques such as lifestyle changes, nutrition, exercise and movement, and complementary and alternative medicine.

You may already be using integrative mental health approaches—such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and other techniques.


Integrative approaches bring together mental and physical health providers who take a broader viewpoint on overall wellness across various specialties.

Some integrative approaches can be implemented directly by behavioral health professionals (for example, breathing or mindfulness), while many others require connection to other health professionals such as dietitians, integrative physicians, physical and occupational therapists, and more.

The key to effective interdisciplinary practice is opening lines of communication across providers whenever possible.